Hide and flirt: observed behavior of female jaguars (Panthera onca) to protect their young cubs from adult males

Abstract

Common across various taxa, infanticide is a highly variable phenomenon present from insects to birds to mammals. In felids, antagonistic sexual coevolution led to the development of female counterstrategies to infanticide spanning particular sexual behavior, physiology, and social strategies. Numerous protective behaviors are well documented for large felids such as lions, cheetahs, and pumas that rely on cooperative defenses and polyandrous mating to protect their cubs from infanticide. Nevertheless, little is known about other wildcat species adopting such behaviors. Solitary and enigmatic, jaguars (Panthera onca) are the largest cat existing in the Americas. Little is known about this big cats’ reproductive and rearing behavior, mainly due to its secretive nature. Here, field observations in two major wetland ecosystems of South America show new and unique findings on female jaguar counterstrategies towards male infanticide. Our findings suggest that, like their big cat relatives in Africa, jaguars have evolved behavioral counterstrategies to protect their young in response to antagonistic sexual coevolution.